“Temperance or Prohibition?”


I first heard the word temperance in high school when studying the liquor smashing behavior of such people as Carrie Nation. At that time in the late 19th century many people opposed alcohol in all its forms, stating that it caused many social ills. The Temperance Movement, as it was called, predated but was eventually subsumed by the Constitutional Amendment enacting Prohibition. Since the Temperance Movement opposed all alcohol, as did Prohibition, I mistakenly believed that temperance and abstinence from all drink were the same.

However, the virtue of temperance has a more nuanced meaning than total avoidance. It includes moderation in all forms, whether in food, drink, language or actions. In that sense it is close kin to prudence, which I discussed a few days ago. But for me prudence suggests a pause before action while temperance seems to be a quality to maintain during action. It would mean that I know when enough is enough, whether it is dessert or a seemingly pointless argument.

Today in the U.S. is called Black Friday because the stores are full of “unbelievable” bargains. The day certainly calls out the opposite of temperance–greed. The ads suggest that we MUST have MORE. And we need to hurry and buy before it is TOO LATE. Because we are having Thanksgiving dinner tonight to accommodate my grandchildren, I missed the sales. But ever since reading the book “Radical Gratitude,” I have found myself approaching all purchases with both prudence(before acting) and temperance(knowing I have enough.) Both are counter cultural, not easy, which I suppose is why we hear so little about these two virtues today.

16 thoughts on ““Temperance or Prohibition?”

  1. Sounds like a good book – a search shows a few books with that title so I’m not sure which one you’re talking about.

    I aspire to temperance. With alcohol I manage it – in my family there seems to be one alternative to that which is far from pretty. With other things I’m not doing as well. Just watch me and my coffee consumption or if there’s delicious food on offer and see for yourself why we never drink alcohol in our family :-D.


    1. I wrote about it a few months ago. It is by Mary Jo Leddy who actually work(s?ed?) at a refugee center in Toronto. My family was and is full of alcoholics. I gave it up a number of years ago as I could tell I was slipping into one of the family patterns–steady evening wine. Never did get into binging, the other family habit.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks – just added it to my “to read” list.

        Sounds like we had the same sort of background and history. Saw the family pattern on the way just a few days after I turned of legal age. Gave it up before it became such a habit that it was difficult to drop. Really glad I did. Alcohol ruined a lot of lives in our family.


  2. Great post Elizabeth, we have the Black Friday sales here too but naively I had no idea what they were for!

    Materialism has become a thing of the past for me too. After having to dismantle two prepared nurseries (after my son & daughter’s still births) & then go through & sort my husband’s possessions for the estate to be settled after his passing from brain cancer. I saw possessions in a totally different light!

    Temperance for me is not over indulging in movies & nougat, I love watching movies & nougat calls my name lol! So we all have something that we can use temperance in πŸ˜‰


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